I found this on the Q&A at ctc magazine, I was rather intrigued.
I have always been, IMO, quite a strong rider, and my body's muscle type seems to be of the bulkier type. When it's toned. I've accepted that this is my riding style, and it's natural to me. I am currently wrecking some MKS touring platforms after only a month of use, and my last bike made good use of the warranty with 4 pedal replacements in a year. They're rugby prop legs, nuff said?
I'm certainly not a novice rider, so I wonder if the thrust of the article this guy mentions is wrong?
Just curious how most of you do regarding the fast/slow cadence thing, and how it matches your muscle type.
(sorry for cut'n pasting a long letter, it was he what done wrote it not me)
Why novices push big gears – 2000.07
I read the reply to Stephen Horsfall's letter about larger gears with interest. I think you may be mistaken about the explanation as to why novices tend to ride with lower cadence and larger gears though. Each muscle in the body contains two types of fibre; fast twitch and slow twitch. The relative amounts that each person has are more or less predetermined genetically, and you cannot increase the proportion of "fast twitch" with the sort of training most cyclists do. Nor can you train one sort of fibre rather than the other. Briefly, the difference between the fibres is as follows. Fast twitch can produce high forces, and readily does anaerobic work but therefore tires quickly. Slow twitch muscle is relatively unable to perform anaerobic work, and produces less force, but because it does so almost entirely from aerobic sources it is able to keep working much longer. The minor differences in speed of contraction are unlikely to come into play for the speeds of most cyclists' pedalling. In fact, to achieve the same speed with the smaller forces they have available, those with more slow twitch fibres will tend to pedal more quickly.
So why do novices, even those who are fit from other exercise, try to push large gears slowly whilst regular cyclists spin lower gears faster?
I am not an expert muscle physiologist, but my theory is as follows: in addition to increases in VO2 max etc. from training, the other effect of training is to increase the amount of small blood vessels in the muscle groups which are trained. Cycling uses muscles which are relatively little used by other exercise and the blood supply to the cycling muscles of a regular cyclist is therefore greater than even a fit person who does not cycle. As novice cyclists begin to ride, those muscle groups rapidly move towards anaerobic respiration, which essentially means that their fast twitch fibres have to do all the work. The higher force available lends itself to a lower cadence to maintain a given speed, although the muscles tire quickly. The regular cyclist has much better blood supply to the muscles used by cycling and therefore is able to remain aerobic for long periods (short hills and sprints excepted), if and only if a high cadence is maintained, allowing most of the work to be done by slow twitch fibres. The regular cyclist therefore uses a higher cadence.
I should be interested to hear from any expert physiologist out there!
James Bellringer — Wimbledon